Stop Food Waste Day Recipe #3: Whole Lemon Meringue Bars  

lemon meringue bars

In honor of Stop Food Waste Day today (April 28), we asked our chefs to submit creative food-waste-fighting recipes. We’re sharing our top three with you, along with some general tips for how you too can save edible food from ending up in the trash. See also:

Female pastry chef

Pastry Chef Jenn Bullard

For her Stop Food Waste recipe inspiration, Bon Appétit at Google Pastry Chef Jenn Bullard had to look no further than her Northern California back yard.

“In California, every home I’ve lived in had some type of citrus tree in the yard and inevitably we had an abundance every winter,” she says. “I’m one of five kids, and I learned early that one of the gravest mistakes I could make was being the one to finish off a snack, resulting in the wrath of all my siblings. Subsequently, there were always half-finished packages of crackers around.” This recipe ties together both those memories. Jenn adds: “Bonus, by using a vanilla bean you can save the husk and either freeze it to later flavor simple syrups, or dry it out and grind to make vanilla powder (add it to sugar for a fragrant addition to recipes, or to enhance your morning coffee!)”

More Tips: Cookie Crumbs Get a Second Chance (printable PDF)


Pastry Chef Jenn Bullard’s Whole Lemon Meringue Bars 

For the crust: 

1.5 cups graham crackers, Ritz crackers, or saltines crushed into crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter

For the filling: 

2 whole lemons
4 egg yolks
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 vanilla beans*

For the meringue: 

4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 vanilla bean* split and scraped
1/2 teaspoon salt

*Or substitute 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract for each vanilla bean half


For the Crust

Preheat oven to 350F°, line a 2″ deep, 8″ x 8″ baking pan with two pieces of parchment trimmed to fit, going in both directions, with some extra hanging over for easy removal of the bars.

Place crackers into a food processor bowl and process to a fine crumb: there should be 1.5 cups. Add sugar and salt and process to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal.

Transfer to the prepared baking pan and press evenly into bottom and about 1″ up the sides of the pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool as you prepare the filling.

Pro Tip: Use all one type of cracker or mix and match. Each has its own unique flavor.  I enjoy a half graham and half Ritz cracker mix. An all-saltine cracker crust is delicious and is famously what is used for the crust of an Atlantic Beach Pie. Don’t be afraid to experiment and change it up!


For the Filling

Trim the stem end from the lemons and discard. Cut the lemons into thin strips, removing the seeds.

Place the lemons in the bowl of a food processor (or in a high speed blender) and add the egg yolks, butter, sugar, vanilla bean and salt. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.

Pour into the crust and bake until set, about 35 minutes.

It may bubble and turn brown unevenly, especially around the edges — have no fear, this is all right. It may also jiggle slightly but it will set up as it cools.

Place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Run a small, sharp knife around the edge to release it. Cool completely in the refrigerator or freezer.

When completely cooled, remove from pan, carefully remove the parchment and transfer to a baking sheet.

For the Meringue (one hour before serving)

In a bowl, rub the scraped vanilla bean flecks into the sugar, set aside. Bring a small pot of water to a simmer.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the egg whites, vanilla sugar, and salt, set over the pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly to prevent the egg whites from scrambling and whisk until the sugar has melted and mixture is warm to the touch.

Remove from the heat and place on the mixer.  Use the whip attachment and beat on high speed until glossy and the meringue forms stiff peaks.

Spoon over the cooled lemon bars and smooth with a spatula creating a swirling pattern. Using a kitchen torch, or your oven’s broiler setting, lightly brown the meringue on top.

Store in the refrigerator until needed.

To serve: Use a knife dipped in hot water to cut the bars into 2″ x 2″ squares, or whatever size desired

To store the bars: Store in a airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days